inessential by Brent Simmons


We’ve entered the age where email is no longer reliable.

It was never perfectly reliable (nothing on the Internet is), but you had a reasonable expectation that if you sent email to someone, they’d get it.

But now there are filters everywhere. Virus catchers, black hole lists, and spam filters set up by your ISP, your office email server, and probably by you.

These filters aren’t perfect. You will miss some email.

My personal filters even look for punctuation—if there’s a ! in the subject line, nine times out of ten it’s spam. So I filter these to a Spam mailbox, which gets a quick look now and again before I trash everything in there.

It’s totally possible I may trash a message from you. I hope not.

Here’s an emailer app feature I’d like to see: it would warn you, before sending a message, that the recipient may filter your message as spam.

If, for instance, you’re sending email to someone and you put three exclamation marks in your subject—as in “Hi!!!”—your emailer should warn you that it’s likely to be filtered as spam.

This wouldn’t be that hard. The list of filters would be a file on the vendor’s Web site somewhere. Your email app would download a new copy every day. This list would be built by looking at the default spam filters for other email apps and by looking at spam itself. It would be maintained by a spam expert.

Then, when sending an email, it would be checked against the filters. If a problem is found, a dialog box would tell you about it. You’d get the chance to continue or cancel sending the email so you could revise it.